Urías making case to be Dodgers' postseason ace

Left-hander dominates Twins as L.A. wins its ninth straight

August 10th, 2022

LOS ANGELES -- In 2020, the Dodgers asked Julio Urías to pitch in a hybrid role during the postseason. The left-hander started two games in October, but was also used out of the bullpen. The strategy proved successful as Urías was on the mound to record the last out of the World Series against Tampa Bay.

Last season, perhaps much more controversially, the Dodgers tried something similar. Despite being the only 20-game winner in the Majors, the Dodgers used an opener in front of Urías in Game 5 of the National League Division Series against the Giants. In Game 2 of the NL Championship Series, Urías was used as a late-inning reliever, this time not so successfully.

After allowing one run over seven dominant innings in the Dodgers’ 10-3 win -- their ninth consecutive victory -- over the Twins on Tuesday at Dodger Stadium, it’s becoming increasingly clear that Urías’ role this October might just be to carry the starting rotation as the team’s ace.

“I think there was just a point where he wanted to be looked at as the guy,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts before Tuesday’s game. “Julio is a guy, and we already know that, but I think that’s something for him that he wants it to be known, and he’s doing that consistently. We’ve been the benefactors.”

For the first time in his career, the Dodgers might turn to Urías to be “the guy.” Walker Buehler’s exact timeline remains to be determined as the right-hander is still in the catch portion of his rehab. Even when he returns, Buehler won’t be asked to carry the load. Clayton Kershaw’s back is giving him problems once again.

Tony Gonsolin has blown past his career high in innings and has looked a bit more vulnerable in the second half. Tyler Anderson might be better suited to replace Urías in that hybrid role the Dodgers like to deploy. That leaves Urías, who has given the Dodgers no reason to believe he can’t rise to the occasion.

Urías has been the Dodgers’ most consistent starter this season. The Mexican southpaw leads the team in innings pitched with 122 2/3. After starting the season with a 3-6 record, Urías has won his last nine decisions.

“I love watching Julio pitch,” said Dodgers third baseman Max Muncy, who homered on Tuesday. “He’s one of the ultimate competitors. It’s a lot of fun to watch him pitch. He’s really good.”

Since the All-Star break, Urías has taken his game to another level. In his last five starts, he’s gone 5-0 with a 1.09 ERA. He has also gone at least six innings in all five starts. Urías has gotten through seven innings in two of his last three. His season ERA is down to 2.49, the seventh-lowest mark in the Majors.

“It’s about focus. The focus is there,” Urías said in Spanish. “I’ve been able to go deep the last few games and feel like I have the confidence from the manager. I’ve tried to make the most of it, and that’s what we did today.”

Behind Urías, the Dodgers’ offense continued to look like the best in the Majors, matching a season high with eight doubles. All nine starters recorded at least one hit.

As a whole, the Dodgers are looking like a team with no true flaws. They need to win 30 of their last 53 games to match the franchise record of 106 wins. All nine wins during their current streak have been by multiple runs. But one question they need to answer over the next two months is: Which starter will lead them in Game 1 of a postseason series?

Urías is making quite the case.

“There’s nothing else for him to prove on a Major League field, but be the guy,” Roberts said. “When he has all three pitches going, I’ll take him against anyone. I really will. … If you’re talking about compilation of weapons, it’s hard to argue anyone is better.”